Personal healthcare overview

September 10, 2009

activism / church / politics

Thus far, this blog has been relatively quiet on the issue of healthcare, though I have linked to a number of conversations concerning it over the last few months. Feel free to look at those, of course1, but this is an attempt to round up my thoughts as they currently stand.

The root of my position rests upon the passionate care that God has, and expects us to have, for the poor. It does not rest upon liberal politics, though in general I am a liberal, nor does it rest upon trust in government or an expectation that government should act like the kingdom of God. I do not trust the government, and do not confuse it with the kingdom of God.2 Finally, it seems relevant to say that it also does not rest upon personal need. I have great healthcare, provided by my employer. It has paid for several surgeries, for both my wife and myself, and in general is very satisfactory.

Faithful disagreement on healthcare

The reason I start with those things is that I am well aware that people can hold all of those beliefs as passionately as I do, and disagree on whether or not the government should provide healthcare for everyone. I’ve made clear my passionate admiration for the Anabaptist way of the kingdom of God, and many people who follow that way do not believe this is the government’s place.

The reason I’m okay with this is that many of these people devote their lives on a daily basis to helping the poor themselves, including providing them with healthcare through co-ops and relational giving. I love this, and this is one of the things the kingdom of God should be doing in the world today. One of the reasons the early church spread as much as it did was that it devoted the vast majority of its money to helping the poor and taking care of the sick. Instead of doing as we do, and spending it on salaries and buildings and giving the leftovers away, the early followers of Jesus gave it all away, and spent the leftovers on their own survival.

Fantastic. I want to be in communities like this, and give money and time to communities like this.

I also started with the root of my position because I believe it is essential to the kingdom of God. Most of the conservative part of the church rejects government involvement in healthcare, not because it wants to provide healthcare for the poor itself (which is possibly the biggest understatement I’ve ever written on this blog), but because it conflicts with Republican ideology. This is the same reason it supports economic avarice, war, its own definition of marriage, and imperialism, and I often wonder if it is not also the reason that it does not support abortion.

This is not something on which I think compromise is warranted or faithful: if conservative Christians do not want the government to provide an affordable healthcare option for everyone, they should do it themselves.

Why I support a public option

In light of all this, I want to end with why I do support the government providing a public healthcare option, though I’m willing to see faithfulness in the alternative position I’ve mentioned.

I’ve indicated my love for those who are devoting their time, money, and lives to the poor and oppressed and include healthcare as part of this. But the fact is that the vast majority of the church does not do this, or have any interest in doing this. It’s incredibly unlikely that any large denomination or religious organization will ever put the kind of financial resources behind an effort like this that are necessary to have a significant impact, or even compare to the kind that the government can devote.

This is fine, as denominations and organizations often have the same issues that government has. But it is also true that there are not enough individuals, individual churches, or non-profits with the heart that is willing to work for this in the small ways of the kingdom of Jesus. I believe we should pray and seek this, in the hopes that the poor can come to us rather than going to the government, but that cannot happen today.

In light of this, I believe that the most realistic way for us to care for those without healthcare, right now, is to support a public option. But realism is not the only reason, as it is often realistic to support war and other government actions that I cannot support. The combination that I can support is realism with compassion and justice. I do not expect our government to act with compassion, but whenever it does I can support it and go alongside it, even while hoping for the kingdom of God to bring those things.

  1. especially Barack Obama’s most recent speech []
  2. I think it is worth saying here that conservatism, at least in the last few decades, is much more guilty of confusing government with the kingdom of God than is liberalism, but the solution to that is of course not to switch sides in doing the same thing, but rather to do something different. []